Sunday, 14 February 2016

Horsham parkrun

Horsham is a market town in West Sussex. There are two possible meanings of the name, the first is 'Horse Ham' meaning a place where horses are kept, and the second is 'Horsa's Ham' which relates to a Saxon warrior who was granted land in the area.

horsham park house

In the centre of the town lies the grade 2 listed Horsham Park House. In 1928 the local council bought the house and its grounds (approx 60 acres) which are now Horsham Park. The park features a combination of open grass fields, outcrops of trees, children's playground and closer the the house some more formal features such as a maze and a human nature garden. There is a pond in the middle of the park which is home to ducks and swans.

st leonards forest dragon

If you get a chance it is worth visiting the maze and working your way to the centre so you can get close-up with The St. Leonard's Forest Dragon. The forest is just to the east of Horsham was home to St. Leonard the dragon slayer c.770AD. Legend says that he was injured in the forest while trying to slay the last dragon in England (although there were still reports of dragons long after this time) and lilies of the valley still grow in the area where his blood fell - the area is still called lily beds.

the meeting point - horsham park bowls club

Moving swiftly back to the centre of Horsham, the park also features sporting facilities in the shape of tennis courts, skate park, football pitches, a trim trail, a table tennis table, and a volleyball court. On 6 September 2014 the park gained a free, Saturday morning, 5km parkrun and this event regularly attracts in excess of 200 runners (sometimes even over 300). At time of writing plans are also under way to bring a junior parkrun to the park.

pre-run briefing

I visited Horsham parkrun with my friend Richey in February 2016 to take part in event number 78. We drove from Dartford which took us approximately an hour. Once in Horsham we parked in the 'Pavilions in the Park' leisure centre car park and this cost £1.60 for up to three hours. As I understand it we could have parked in the Horsham Superbowl car park for free up until 10am.

from the day's start looking towards the first windy gentle undulation

For anyone wishing to travel by train, Horsham train station is just across the road from the park, which is very handy. There are some toilets in the leisure centre which were the ones we headed for. I hear that there are also some more toilets over near the Superbowl car park. For cyclists there are some bicycle racks in the park just outside the Conservatory Cafe which is also the post-tun social venue.

course was well marked

The day we visited, the weather was a little miserable and it rained the entire time we were there, which actually brings me quite nicely onto one of Horsham's claims to fame - On 5 September 1958 a hailstone fell in the town which weighed 140g and was the size of a tennis ball. The estimated impact speed has been calculated to have been 224mph. It holds the record for the heaviest hailstone ever recorded in the UK.

one of the football pitches

The meeting point for the run is outside the Horsham Park Bowls Club and this is where the run briefing took place when we visited. The runners are then walked across to the start line. If you look at the official course page you'll see the standard course showing the loop of the park plus a start and finish tails. This would be the standard course, but from what I've seen on various Strava traces the exact positioning of these two tails can vary.

a wider path towards the end of the lap

So the bulk of the course is made up of three laps of the park. Underfoot is mostly tarmac but there are a few brief sections where the route leaves the paths and cuts across grass (there sections were really muddy when we visited). There were some minor course alterations made when we visited so please refer to the official map rather than my Strava readings if planning a visit.

the metallic tree

The lap contains two mild undulations so during the course of the run there are six extremely gentle ascents to negotiate. Towards the end of the lap, the route almost feels as if it has left the park as it goes in-between the Superbowl building and its car park. You'll also run around the metallic tree here.

the day's finish line

It's worth noting that the paths are extremely narrow especially during the first half of each lap and I found the lap 1 to be extremely congested. This makes lining up in an appropriate position at the start vital. The course is totally manageable with a running buggy but those narrow paths and large number of runners make it quite tricky - fellow buggy runners need to be very careful to avoid hitting other runners' heals.

there is some toast there. honestly [photo: richey]

After the run we popped into the Conservatory Cafe for some beans on toast and a drink, and by the time we had finished discussing our visit our parking ticket had just about run out. So we grabbed a quick moment with the day's run director Simon to thank him for their hospitality and we then headed back towards the car. It was still raining and continued to do so all the way home.


Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Kent Fitness League 2015/16: Blean Woods

Blean Woods is one of the largest areas of ancient woodland in England. It lies between Canterbury, Whitstable and Herne Bay in Kent. In total 'The Blean' covers over 11 square miles. The woods were the venue for the 7th and final match of the 2015/16 Kent Fitness League cross country season.

dartford harriers [photo: dani]

It was the first cross country match that I had been to since lasts season's match at Minnis Bay. Sadly I have had a pretty poorly knee for over a year, but after a bit of good advice from a physio at Darent Valley Hospital I finally seem to have made enough progress with it to allow me to put in the occasional run.

these are spikes [photo: esther]

Car parking here can be tricky. For the most part it's a case of trying to find a spot on a nearby side street. It's not easy and it's not always pretty but as far as I know everyone seemed to find a spot somewhere - a lot of cars ended up parked half on the grass verge along the main Rough Common Road. I think the best thing I can advise is to arrive early and leave enough time for a walk across to the woods.

warm up [photo: esther]

The Race HQ was located in the Rough Common Village Hall. I popped in here and found my Dartford Harriers team manager and made sure he had me down on his list. I also found a toilet here. There's also some space to get changed if required. About a kilometre down the road you'll find Blean Woods and there were plenty of marshals on hand to make sure the runners headed in the right direction.

raring to go with adam and lime [photo: dani]

The start/finish area is located on a large open sports field where each team of the league had found suitable spot to pitch up. A few minutes before 11am all of the runners were ushered over to the other side of the field for a short pre-race briefing and at 11 o'clock on the dot the race was started.

alongside richey [photo: dani]

The first section of the race took place over one-and-a-half laps of the sports fields which gave the runners plenty of time to sort themselves into appropriate positions before reaching the narrower paths within the woods. I was actually surprised at how boggy these sports fields were and with the first 100 metres or so I had already filled my shoes with water.

and into the woods we go... [photo: dani]

Once the runners have completed this section they dived off into the woods and were immediately plunged into the first of many quagmires. While in the woods, the course undulated all the way around. The surfaces underfoot varied from mildly stony paths to soft forest trails to knee deep mud. There were plenty of tree roots, branches, holly leaves and all sorts of other foresty items to watch out for.

in we go... [photo: claudia bates]

In total this race was pretty much spot on 5 miles in length and about four of those miles were run in the woods. The course undulated throughout and was a lot of fun. I wore my spikes but found the mildly-stony paths a little hard going in them - overall they did the job, but a really aggressive pair of trail shoes would also have been ok for this course.

approaching the finish [photo: esther]

At the end of the big loop within the woods, the runners emerged back out onto the sports field where the final challenge was to somehow trawl through the already churned up fields. It really was like running through treacle at points. The finish line soon appeared and the muddy adventure was over. If you'd like to see the full course in more detail feel free to take a look at my GPS file on Strava - KFL Blean Woods.

done [photo: dani]

My performance was nowhere near where I would usually expect to be but considering I've had a pretty miserable running year, I was very happy to finish the course in 42.40 and 135th position out of 313. The full results were published on the official results page about 24 hours later. It was a fab race, I think my knee just about made it through in one piece - just a very mild sensation of pain the following day.


Tuesday, 2 February 2016

The Buckinghamshire parkrun Venues

The ceremonial county of Buckinghamshire is made up of Buckinghamshire County Council and Milton Keynes Council.

Map: The pins on the map mark the locations of parkruns within the county. The green pins show the venues I have officially visited while the red pins are venues that I still need to visit.



Aylesbury parkrun - nr Quarrendon and Meadowcroft Community Centre, Aylesbury

Course: Lollipop with two licks of the sticky part
Underfoot: Tarmac (??)
Profile: Flat
Notes: The original course that I ran was deemed short and subsequently lengthened
Further Reading: My Aylesbury parkrun blog entry


Black Park parkrun - Black Park Country Park, Slough

Course: One 5k point-to-point loop
Underfoot: Woodland paths
Profile: Flat
Notes:
Further Reading: My Black Park parkrun blog entry


Buckingham parkrun - Bridge Street Skate Park, Buckingham

Course:
Underfoot:
Profile:
Notes:
Further Reading: NOT YET VISITED


Milton Keynes parkrun - Willen Lakeside Park, Milton Keynes

Course: One lap
Underfoot: Tarmac
Profile: Mostly flat
Notes:
Further Reading: My Milton Keynes parkrun blog entry


Rushmere parkrun - Rushmere Country Park, nr Leighton Buzzard

Course:
Underfoot:
Profile:
Notes:
Further Reading: NOT YET VISITED


Wycombe Rye parkrun - The Rye, Bassetsbury Lane, High Wycombe

Course:
Underfoot:
Profile:
Notes:
Further Reading: NOT YET VISITED



Wednesday, 27 January 2016

National Trust parkrun venues

The National Trust are great supporters of parkrun and kindly allow many of their venues to be used for parkruns. They are generally off-road courses and beautiful places to run. If you were making a 'must-do' list, then these venues would be a good place to start. The National Trust have their own webpage showing which venues are home to parkruns, you can find it here - National Trust parkrun Venues

For the list below I have ordered the venues by name of parkrun rather than name of NT venue. This differs from the NT list as they are listed by venue name (eg: Castle Coole on the NT list is actually Enniskillen parkrun on my list below).

As the venues are widely spread across the country, I haven't visited many of them. I'll try to tick off the odd venue every now and then, but almost all of them require a long drive and probably an overnight stay. It will be extremely slow progress.

Map: The green pins show the venues I have officially visited while the red pins are venues that I still need to visit.



Bath Skyline parkrun - Bath Skyline, Bath, Somerset

Course: A small loop followed by a big loop
Underfoot: Gravel, stone, grass
Profile:
Notes: Steps on course - not suitable for buggies
Further Reading: NOT YET VISITED


Belton House parkrun - Belton House, Grantham, Lincolnshire

Course: Two anti-clockwise laps
Underfoot:
Profile:
Notes:
Further Reading: NOT YET VISITED


Blickling parkrun - Blickling Estate, Aylsham, Norfolk

Course: Almost two laps
Underfoot:
Profile:
Notes:
Further Reading: NOT YET VISITED


Clumber Park parkrun - Clumber Park, Worksop, Nottinghamshire

Course: Two laps
Underfoot:
Profile:
Notes:
Further Reading: NOT YET VISITED


Colby parkrun - Colby Woodland Garden, Ambroth, Pembrokeshire

Course: Three laps
Underfoot: Trail paths / grass
Profile: Undulating
Notes: Set in a tranquil secret valley
Further Reading: NOT YET VISITED


Enniskillen parkrun - Castle Coole, Enniskillen, Fermanagh, (Northern Ireland)

Course: One lap
Underfoot:
Profile:
Notes: It's in Northern Ireland so has a 9.30am start
Further Reading: NOT YET VISITED


Fell Foot parkrun - Fell Foot, Cumbria

Course: Figure of eight with top loop run twice
Underfoot:
Profile:
Notes: It's run next to lake Windermere. Need I say more?
Further Reading: NOT YET VISITED


Fountains Abbey parkrun - Fountains Abbey

Course: Two laps
Underfoot: Firm footpaths
Profile: Gently undulating
Notes:
Further Reading: NOT YET VISITED


Gibside parkrun - Gibside

Course:
Underfoot:
Profile:
Notes:
Further Reading: NOT YET VISITED


Hatfield Forest parkrun - Hatfield Forest, Essex

Course: One lap (technically point-to-point)
Underfoot: Tarmac, grass, mud, puddles
Profile: Almost completely flat
Notes: Set in a stunning medieval forest
Further Reading: My Hatfield Forest parkrun blog post


Killerton parkrun - Killerton, Devon

Course: One lap
Underfoot: Trails / grass
Profile:
Notes: Scenic
Further Reading: NOT YET VISITED


Lanhydrock parkrun - Lanhydrock, Devon

Course: One lap
Underfoot:
Profile: Undulating / hilly?
Notes:
Further Reading: NOT YET VISITED


Lyme Park parkrun - Lyme Park, Cheshire

Course: One lap (point-to-point)
Underfoot:
Profile:
Notes: According to the course page.. breathtaking.
Further Reading: NOT YET VISITED


Newport parkrun - Tredegar House, South Wales

Course: Two laps
Underfoot: Gravel / bark / compact earth / grass
Profile: Flat
Notes:
Further Reading: NOT YET VISITED


Nostell Priory parkrun - Nostell Priory, Yorkshire

Course: Two laps
Underfoot: Tarmac, bark, trail, grass
Profile:
Notes: Barcode in window for free parking
Further Reading: NOT YET VISITED


Osterley parkrun - Osterley Park, Middlesex (London)

Course: Three laps
Underfoot: Tarmac, trail, grass
Profile: Flat
Notes: Very nice. I really enjoyed the short trail section
Further Reading: My Osterley parkrun blog post


Parke parkrun - Parke, Bovey Tracey, Devon

Course: One lap (?)
Underfoot:
Profile: Hilly / Undulating
Notes:
Further Reading: NOT YET VISITED


Penrhyn parkrun - Penrhyn Castle, Gwynedd

Course: Two big loops and two small loops
Underfoot:
Profile: Mostly flat (some small undulations)
Notes: Beautiful and picturesuqe (from official page)
Further Reading: NOT YET VISITED


Penrose parkrun - Penrose, Helston, Cornwall

Course: One lap (point-to-point)
Underfoot: Woodland and coastal paths
Profile:
Notes:
Further Reading: NOT YET VISITED


Plym Valley parkrun - Plymbridge Woods, Devon

Course: One lap
Underfoot: Grass / tarmac / woods
Profile: Undulating / hilly
Notes:
Further Reading: NOT YET VISITED


Sheringham parkrun - Sheringham Oark, Norfolk

Course: One lap
Underfoot: Woodland paths (firms but can be muddy)
Profile: Undulating
Notes:
Further Reading: NOT YET VISITED


South Shields parkrun - The Leas, Tyne and Wear

Course: One lap (point-to-point)
Underfoot:
Profile:
Notes: Follows part of the route of the great north run
Further Reading: NOT YET VISITED


Wimpole Estate parkrun - Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire

Course: One lap
Underfoot: tarmac / grass
Profile: Undulating
Notes: Has cows and sheep on the course.
Further Reading: My Wimpole Estate parkrun blog post


Yeovil Montecute parkrun - Montecute House, Somerset

Course: Small loop then two big loops
Underfoot: Grass
Profile: Undulating
Notes:
Further Reading: NOT YET VISITED





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